Basil is a staple in my herb box every year. I wouldn’t think of preparing a Mediterranean dish without its sweet taste and peppery and minty smell. While most of us consider this “royal herb” (according to the French) to have culinary purpose only, research has uncovered its health benefits. According to WorldsHealthiestFoods.org, basil has antibacterial properties that protect against bacterial growth and anti-inflammatory effects that provide symptomatic relief of rheumatoid arthritis and inflammatory bowel conditions. It is also a good source of magnesium, which promotes cardiovascular health. So, this summer while basil is in big supply in your herb box, enjoy as much fresh basil as you can and freeze the rest for colder months.
Grilled Chicken & Peach Salad with Balsamic Basil Vinaigrette
1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon minced shallots Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper 1/3 cup olive oil
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper Olive oil
2 large peaches, halved 10-ounce container spring mix
(or favorite lettuce) Chopped basil leaves for garnish
Preheat grill pan or outdoor grill.
In a small bowl, whisk together the first 8 ingredients. Gradually add olive oil, whisking until emulsified (well blended). Set aside.
Season chicken with salt and pepper. Sprinkle both chicken and peaches with the olive oil. Grill over indirect heat until chicken reaches an internal temperature of 165° and peaches have grill marks. Turn once during grilling for even cooking.
To serve, place equal amounts of spring mix on 4 plates. Slice chicken into 1⁄4-inch strips and peaches into 8 wedges; and arrange each in equal parts on top of lettuce. Drizzle with vinaigrette. Garnish with chopped basil.
Basil Tomato Mozzarella Flatbread Pizza
4 7-inch flatbread rounds Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper 2 cups fresh basil leaves
4 large plum tomatoes, thinly sliced 2 cups grated mozzarella cheese
Preheat oven to 475-500°. Place a pizza stone or heavy baking sheet into the oven. With a fork, prick small holes in the flatbread to prevent bubbles from forming. Drizzle olive oil over the flatbread and season with salt and pepper. Arrange basil leaves, followed by tomato slices and mozzarella on top of each flatbread. Drizzle more olive oil on top and place on heated baking sheet in the oven.
Cook until cheese is melted and the crust is crisp and slightly browned—about 7 to 10 minutes. Allow to rest for 2 to 3 minutes before slicing.
Easy to prepare, pesto is a versatile condiment that can be used as a topping on crostini, bruschetta or baked potatoes, a finish for pasta, or a sauce for grilled meats.
Makes 1 cup
2 cups fresh basil leaves, packed 1/3 cup pine nuts
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese 2 large garlic cloves
1/2 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Place the basil and pine nuts in a food processor and pulse several times. Add the garlic and cheese and pulse several more times. Scrape down the sides of the food processor with a spatula. While the processor is running, slowly add olive oil in a steady stream. This helps the pesto to emulsify (blend thoroughly). Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Belinda Smith-Sullivan is a food writer, personal chef, and pilot who enjoys exploring the “off the beaten path” culinary world. Her love of cooking and entertaining motivated her to give up a corporate career to pursue a degree in Culinary Arts from Johnson & Wales University. Now living in Aiken, she currently markets her own spice line called Chef Belinda Spices. Recently she was inducted into Les Dames d’Escoffier, Charleston chapter.